Since Blogcritics has been around for three years now and has accumulated about 32,000 stories(!), we thought it would be amusing and/or edifying to start a new feature — From the Blogcritics Vaults — where we will look at a Blogcritics story from either 1, 2 or 3 years ago on that date.
Today is a black day in the annals of American popular culture, because on August 16, 1977, Elvis Presley died rather ignominiously perched upon the toilet.
I wrote the following three years ago today, August 16, 2002, which was the 25th anniversary of the King’s death:
It’s been 25 years since Elvis died on the toilet, a big fat freak of 42. He was an old man, but two years younger than I am now. Think about this: Elvis has been dead longer than his career lasted, and I’m including the crappy 70s. Yet the King remains as popular as ever (to the tune of $37 million last year). I would say that the real Elvis has been lost under the tidal wave of Elvis-the-cultural-icon, but that isn’t really true because people still listen to his music, and his music is the REAL Elvis.
In the car I was listening to NPR’s tribute to Presley (they have an excellent page with a wealth of audio and textual resources) in a somberish mood. The Elvis story always makes me melancholy: the revolutionary music with Sam Phillips, the meteoric rise, the “commercialization,” the dead period of bad movies in the 60s, the comeback, the decline unto a pathetic death. But then going into the break, they played an extended portion of “Suspicious Minds,” and I remembered how – for all his otherwordly gifts – charmingly real and fragile Elvis was, and this was as big a part of his appeal as the wondrous voice and the animal magnetism.
Elvis KNEW his movies were mostly shit, his music in the middle-60s shlock, and by the time of his comeback TV special in ’68, he was insecure and unsure of his ability to deliver anymore. But deliver he did and the joy of that connection, or rather reconnection, was truly lovable. His best music undoubtedly came from the ’50s and early-60s, but the best Elvis was the magical return to grace in ’68/’69, capped by the Memphis glory of “Suspicious Minds,” his first #1 in seven years and the last #1 of his life.
Hearing the stark soul groove highlighted by Reggie Young’s curling guitar and Gene Chrisman’s light but insistent backbeat, and Elvis’s restrained/powerful/yearning vocal – living the lyric, loving the music – almost brought a tear. At that point in his life and career, Elvis and his fans needed each other equally: you can sense the energy flowing both ways, restoring Elvis and rewarding his fans for their faith and support. That moment of equilibrium is the Elvis I love best.